The Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics has received a planning grant from the Dana Foundation to design a potential "Dana Center for Neuroscience & Society." With this funding the Center and its many campus partners will conduct integrated pilot projects for community-engagement, participant-centered strategic visioning to identify and address the rapid development of implantable and wearable neurotechnologies—and their potential application in a wide variety of contexts including the clinic, courtroom, classroom, and community—raise urgent ethical and legal challenges.
Central to the success of the work will be recruiting and mentoring the next generation of neuroethics and society professionals. The planning grant is already mentoring a diverse team of Fellows, including undergraduates and students training to be physicians, lawyers, neuroscientists, and biomedical engineers.
At present, "neuroethics and neurolaw are severely constrained in their ability to address neurotechnology challenges because these fields fail to reflect the diversity of the individuals and communities affected by these technological advances," said Gabriel Lázaro-Muñoz, a co-leader of the planning grant who directs the Lázaro-Muñoz Laboratory: Brain Bioethics Laboratory at the HMS Center for Bioethics.
Lázaro-Muñoz and co-leaders neurosurgeon Theresa Williamson and law professor Francis Shen envision a Center that will address this gap by creating community engaged research, training and outreach programs to support the professional development of postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate Dana Fellows from underrepresented minority groups. "We have an opportunity to powerfully shape the trajectory of neurotechnology toward justice," said Dr. Williamson.
The planning grant is supporting a Neuroethics Justice Summit, to be held on January 24, 2023 both virtually and in person on the Harvard Medical School campus. The event is open to the public, with registration required. "The Summit will be an opportunity for community dialogue and debate about how we can positive shape the future trajectory of neurotechnology," commented Dr. Shen.
The complexity of the challenges addressed in this project requires diverse expertise, and the planning grant will involve community partners, partners at Minority Serving Institutions, and collaborators from multiple internal and external schools and centers, including: Boston Museum of Science, the Harvard Brain Science Institute, Center for Brain Sciences, Safra Center for Ethics, Mass General, McLean Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Center for Law, Brain & Behavior, and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.